Last week I read news stories about two different women, both sexually assaulted and murdered while jogging on consecutive days in different American cities.
Two radiant lives snuffed out in an instant.
Two grief-stricken families preparing to bury their daughters, sisters, and friends well before their time.
Two senseless wastes of beautiful humanity.
As I read the accounts of these seemingly random, violent attacks by apparent strangers, one question rose up and refused to be ignored. It’s a question I’ve been wrestling with for most of my adult life:
What the heck is wrong with men, anyway?
The truth is, you can find stories like this every single day without even trying. If your eyes are at all open, it’s a fairly noticeable reality that there are vile, sickening things that as a general rule, women rarely if ever do:
They don’t lie in wait to sexually assault or kill strangers.
They don’t snap, and shoot up movie theaters and shopping malls and churches.
They don’t murder spouses and lovers when they try to leave a relationship.
They don’t commit random violence against LGBTQ people.
They don’t subject strangers who pass them on the street to disgusting catcalls.
Men do these things—with alarming regularity and proficiency.
Obviously we can find anecdotal incidents in each of these cases, but the fact remains that men have a seemingly inexhaustible capacity for violence and inflicting terror on others—one that women simply can’t touch. In fact we’d be hard pressed to find any examples of wide-scale or systematic malevolence to point to, on behalf of our sisters on this planet.
For the past twenty years as a pastor I’ve been trying to figure out why that is, and I don’t find testosterone and penises and a couple million years of caveman DNA to be compelling answers. I also don’t think that simply blaming Sin cuts it either, otherwise we’d share the load of such atrocities with women.
And oddly enough, even in the face of this clear disparity of decency, many in the Church still insist that women are the “weaker sex”.
Conservative strains of Christianity subscribe to a view known as Complementarianism, which assigns distinct roles and responsibilities in the world to both men and women. Proponents of this theory often use the Bible to justify denying women formal positions of leadership in the Church, as well as authority in the home.
Complementarianism tends to perpetuate many of the stereotypical, historical gender roles, that women should be submissive caretakers of the children and home, while men are to be the dominant, aggressive forces out there in the world. It has also formed the bedrock of the notoriously patriarchical Christian Church, used to excuse all manner of misogyny and sexism. It’s perpetuated the subjugation, abuse, and silencing of women for a few thousand years, all in the name of God. In the words of my wife, “In Complementarianism, a husband and wife are ‘equal’ until they have a disagreement—then the man is the tie-breaker. That’s not a tie-breaker!”
Not exactly equality.
Every day I see brilliant, passionate, faithful, gifted women leaders treated with such contempt and disregard by arrogant, intolerant men who claim to be Christian. I watch these guys dismiss their contributions and heap condescension upon them while using the Bible to do it. And the whole time I’m wondering why they can’t see the world that I see. I’m wondering why they don’t notice the mess we’ve made. I wonder what Jesus they’re taking a cue from.
Because ironically, the greatest argument against this elevated religious view of men—is men. We’ve created a historical body of work reprehensible enough to make Complementarianism laughable. If the abhorrent behavior of men is trying to make an argument for moral superiority, we ain’t looking’ that good, fellas. I think we need to make room at the table and the pulpit and the office, and realize that it’s been a long time coming and it’s a really good thing.
I believe women should be pastors. (They in fact, already are).
I believe they should teach men in the Church.
I believe they should be Presidents.
I believe they should have greater influence on our political process.
I believe they should have equal pay for doing the work they do.
I believe women fully reflect the character of God.
I believe these things for many reasons, but primarily because there is a decency and compassion and goodness that they bring to the table that men have proven for whatever reason, we aren’t as capable of. We need the balance of their presence to temper the worst in us. In a way that transcends easy caricature, women seem less prone to violence, less vulnerable to ego, and more measured in the face of dispute—and this is sorely needed on the planet.
I’m certainly not ashamed to be a man, but I can admit that we’ve really dropped the ball with this whole patriarchal civilization thing, that we’ve terribly imbalanced and could use a reboot. I want a less angry, less frightening, less violent world for my children.
Most of all, as a pastor, I want a Church that better reflects Jesus, and having more women stewarding its direction and shaping its future and guarding its heart is the only way there.
Check out these amazing Christian pastors, speakers, and authors who happen to be women. They inspire, educate, challenge, and encourage me daily.
Listen to them.
Glennon Doyle Melton
Rachel Held Evans
This article originally appeared on John Pavlovitz
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